Getting to use your days off from work for a short holiday is great because it lets you recharge, spend time with your family, rediscover your passion for your hobbies, maybe even travel a bit. Unfortunately, not everyone has that luxury, especially when their company demands that they be on-call 24/7 and pressures them into not taking any free days during the holidays.

Imgur user iHateGames turned to the internet with an example of exactly such corporate intimidation. In a series of posts, the Imgurian explained how one railway company, BNSF, does all that it can to make sure that the conductors it employs don’t take days off (or use their ‘layoff’ in railroad terms) when they want to but instead are available to work during the holidays.

And most of us probably agree that the holidays are meant to be spent in the company of loved ones, not working.

In an in-depth interview with Bored Panda, Dr. Eddy Ng, the James and Elizabeth Freeman Professor of Management at Bucknell University, explained how important it is that employees know their rights and how they should deal with pressure from their employers to work during the holidays.

Image credits: iHateGames

An Imgur user posted a letter sent to a train conductor, pressuring them to work during the holidays

Image credits: iHateGames

The story spreads over two posts and got more than 12,500 upvotes on Imgur combined, with the majority of people exclaiming that it’s not fair to demand such things from employees, whatever their job might be. Some Imgurians couldn’t help themselves and made train puns, such as how some companies like ‘railroading’ their employees.

Here’s the context

“Labor laws or employment standards will require employers provide regular employees with paid time off for statutory holidays. In the event that an employer requires an employee to work over the holiday period, the employee will be eligible for statutory holiday pay—the amount varies across different jurisdictions.”

“Employees can and should remind employers of their statutory rights pertaining to holiday or holiday pay should they work. Employers may face fines if they violate labor laws or employment standards,” Dr. Ng explained.

Union representatives contacted the company regarding their intimidating letter

Image credits: iHateGames

Image credits: iHateGames

Employees should know their rights

The professor continued: “Employees are entitled to know and should know their rights when working over a holiday period. This information should be provided in employee handbooks and it is good management practice to let employees know of their entitlements.”

“Employees may also contact the Department of Labor that enforces labor laws or employment standards to file a complaint,” he added.

“Sometimes, it is necessary to ask employees to work during a holiday period,” professor Ng conceded. “However, employers have a duty to accommodate employees who are unable to work over a holiday period for religious observances (religious accommodation).”

“Employees should inform their employers in advance to allow their employers to find replacement workers. US laws also require employers to accommodate employees only to the point of undue hardship, i.e., more than a de minimis cost or burden to the employer.”

Communication can solve everything?

There’s no such thing as a perfect workplace and sooner or later, everyone’s bound to have at least some minor problems with their superiors. However, if your boss starts bullying you into doing something that will negatively affect your health or your morals, that’s when you have to stand up for yourself. If you’re feeling trapped in a corner, more communication might be the key to solving your problem.

For example, Cheat Sheet writes that if you’re always asked to work late and on the edge of burnout, you ought to talk to your boss and explain exactly the amount of work you’ve been doing and how much it’s affecting your health and motivation. You never know, your boss might be willing to find a compromise that suits you both. Especially if you’re a valued employee

Career expert Karen Burns had this to say on the subject: “Trying to accomplish the impossible is a recipe for failure—yours as well as the company’s. It’s even possible your boss isn’t aware of the weight of your workload. The ‘reward’ for a dependable achiever is often to be given more work.”

What do you think of this entire situation with the railway company, dear Readers? Do you think that everyone should be able to take time off when they want, especially during the holidays? Have you ever been in a situation where your employer tried to intimidate you? Let us know in the comments.

“Companies hold the power”

Bored Panda also spoke to Imgurian iHateGames about their post. “Companies hold the power, especially in America. Unfortunately, what I think we’re seeing is that companies solely care about profits. When a company sees a perceived problem (nobody working holidays due to a policy), they react with motivation. That motivation is money.”

“In my mind, that leads to two outcomes. Either the company incentivizes people to work on those holidays with extra pay, or they attempt to intimidate employees by making them fear for their job. The railroad in question did the latter. While people boast about how well our economy is doing in America, the truth is far more unfortunate. There are many desperate people willing to be yes men for companies so that they can feed their families, acquire healthcare, and finally have a sense of security. Companies know this, and companies know the employees know this. For this reason, I believe companies find it in their best interest to intimidate employees in order to achieve maximum profits and productivity.”

iHateGames said that they feel “terrible” for those people who don’t have union backing. “The United States is very business-friendly and gives companies a lot of leeway in the way they treat their employees. I will say, for those eligible, and especially shift workers, get FMLA! It is a federal act that protects the employee from retaliation if they need time off for medical (mental or physical) reasons. The company doesn’t even have the right to know what the condition is, although many will try to make it seem that way! Read into it on the department of labor’s website.”

Bored Panda was also interested to know whether iHateGames thinks that everyone, regardless of their profession, should be able to have the holidays off: “Yes, with a few exceptions. First responders and emergency public personnel should be available in my opinion. However, I think they should be compensated well. Private or public companies have proven they will abuse any leeway given to them. Federal Holidays off should be a right given to all American citizens.”

Here’s how people reacted to the story